Saturday, March 04, 2006

Mormonism in my situation (follow up)

I'm usually a head-in-the-clouds kind of guy when it comes to morality, religion, and ethics. Sorry if I get really really really boring. It's not intentional. Maybe I'll throw in a few expletives for good pacing.

Anyway, in my last post about my view on Mormonism, I tried to explain (but not very well) that my interest in religion is an interest in facts. As far as Mormonism goes as a cultural paradigm, I like it, but what I'm really concerned about is whether or not the claims of the LDS church are actually facts. I like going to church, having friends there, eating casseroles,... whatever. But for me, the green jello just isn't worth it if there's no God, no "true church", no plan of salvation. For those of you who have expressed respect for the ideal of tolerance of other churches, I say, I also respect and appreciate other churches and all those in them. However, getting back to facts--they're not subjective. And no matter how much you like a lifestyle or a doctrine or a spiritual road to enlightenment, if it doesn't actually reflect cold incontrovertible reality, it's not in the same category that I believe the Mormon church is. Whether you believe that about the Mormon church probably ought to play into whether or not you are a member of said church.

So, if it is true that gender identity and sexual expression are intended for the purpose of eternal families and eternal procreation (as it says in the Proclamation on the Family), and I believe it is true, that throws a wrench in my plan for a manage a trois with Elbow, despite the appeal. It precludes any gay sex whatever, and therefore, probably eliminates the possibility of fully satisfying sexual expression at any time in my life.

But what about happiness?!? I hear you all pleading. God can't expect you to be unhappy, can he? He can't if he loves you, you insist in a Disney withdrawal fit of "ever after" spasms.

Oh contrare, queer friends. Be ready to be Job. Be ready to be Joseph Smith. Be ready to be Jesus. All of these men gave all or part of their happiness up because of a higher cause--something that most people don't even recognize is possible. I've spent most of my life with a delusional understanding of the idea "men are that they might have joy," as if joy is what I want it to be. It's my own road to find what I like and what I want to pursue, I thought.

Well, now it seems to me that my former ideal of joy was just hedonism on steroids. Ultimately the pursuit of joy, happiness, pleasure, self-fulfillment--makes very little sense in an eternal scheme. We are here for reasons outside ourselves. And yes, I believe joy on the part of everyone to be a good and important part of that, but it's not principle and it's so damn distracting to most people I'm tempted to just leave it out altogether. I've specifically avoided the distinctions between joy, happiness, and pleasure that always get debated in discussions like these, because to me they're largely irrelevant. My point is that they all have one thing in common: they're focused on me and me alone--an attribute that forces me to mentally minimize their ultimate importance.

So, to summarize. I just don't buy arguments including the phrasing "God must" or "if I'm wrong, God..." or "my heart is in the right place." Nuh uh. The Mormonism I believe in is based on the factual state of the universe, not a blog poll. God's relationship with us is changeable on only one end, ours.

But realizing this helps me avoid looking for happiness in impossible places. Places that have a sense of certain plausibility based on my current life, my feelings, my ideals. But places that I'm told won't leave me where I want to be in the next life, or maybe even later in this life (I don't know). Thus Mormonism becomes, for me, a huge exercise of faith, of further study, of meditation, of (sometimes, unfortunately) sacrifice.

And even now I can hear keyboards across the blogosphere hammering out angry rebuttals in which my take here is criticized and your personal view on Mormonism defended. (At least, I would hear keyboards if 1. I had bionic hearing and 2. anyone actually read this blog). Well, in a self-absorbed sort of way, I'm just explaining why being gay and Mormon is hard for me. And because of my strict view of Mormonism it probably is harder than for some. I hesitate to compare myself to other gay Mormons, but I wonder if it's much less of a challenge if you don't have a testimony and your threatened divorce from Mormonism is cultural only. Or if you can genuinely lose your testimony over time. Deliberate or subconscious, it is probably an effective coping mechanism. I've lived in the land of cognitive dissonance for so long, I think I'm getting pretty good at just accepting my imperfections without resorting to defensive attacks on the church's stand on homosexuality (or other doctrinal issues that could convince me to abandon my testimony). But the legitimate questions about the church are still a challenge for me, as they are for others, and that's why I want to be an "ardent Mormon" even when I have my struggles with the church. That's my spiritual goal for now.


Chris (hurricane) said...


What are the "facts" of Mormonism?

onDfence said...

Just to let you know I'm reading your blog.

But I wonder...if you can genuinely lose your testimony over time.

Having been inactive for a period of 5 yrs, some yrs ago. I can say personally I never lost my testimony, but I did put it on hold, or rather, just simply ignored it. This is something I am once again considering.

-L- said...

Things like, you need to be baptised by someone with the priesthood, or families can be together forever. Things that are either true or they aren't--not just nice ideas that make me happy, help me cope, and lead me to be a good person.

I don't mean to offend the several people I know who frequent gay blogs that aren't all that fond of the mormon church for various reasons. So, I've tried to be diplomatic here in explaining why the "only true church" is really kind of important whether it is inadvertently offensive or not.

-L- said...

Thanks for coming to visit, ondfence. Come again.

I'm working on a post right now that talks about integrity and cognitive dissonance (simultaneously holding two beliefs that are contradictory). I think it has been kind of central to my coping. I hope you will like it. (I say like you're all waiting on the edge of your seat for my latest installment. Ha!)

Chris (hurricane) said...

L, you need to dig deeper than that, don't you? What are the foundational truths and fact of Mormonism that you find to be irrefutable?

You won't offend me with the one true church idea. I just don't believe it anymore -- simple as that.


RE: Losing testimony. Is it possible that testimony evolves and changes? Is it possible that one comes to understand facts and reality and spirit in such a way that one's understanding of his testimony changes?

-L- said...


I don't consider particular doctrines to be "irrefutable". They may be untrue, and if they are they are probably refutable. I'm generalizing deliberately to make the point that I disagree with molding Mormonism into my own thing or thinking up the attributes of God that are most consistent with my personal wishes. If there's a God, he's got a set of attributes that are only open for debate insofar as they are unknown. Whatever they actually are isn't going to change depending on who wins the debate.

Sorry. Apparently I suck as a writer. After two posts, I haven't made this very clear at all. Maybe another try later...

And I know you and several others that may read this don't believe it anymore, which is why this post is really about me... and maybe some others who are similarly situated.

I believe testimony is always evolving. But I think the challenge is realizing when I am abandoning my testimony (or adjusting--whatever) to accommodate something that I desperately want. Rationalization is something everyone does all the time usually without realizing it. I like to ask myself with some frequency if I'm changing my beliefs for convenience, not conviction.

-L- said...

oh yeah, and I'm glad you're not offended by "the only true church" thing. Many are though!

See, for example, this entertaining site:

DCTwistedLife said...

I don't consider particular doctrines to be "irrefutable". They may be untrue, and if they are they are probably refutable. I'm generalizing deliberately to make the point that I disagree with molding Mormonism into my own thing or thinking up the attributes of God that are most consistent with my personal wishes. If there's a God, he's got a set of attributes that are only open for debate insofar as they are unknown. Whatever they actually are isn't going to change depending on who wins the debate.

So how are you so sure that you know what his attributes are? There are just as many die-hard Catholics and Muslims out there who are sure they know what God is like. Because the Catholic's Bible, and the Muslim's Quran tells them. Just like the BoM tells you. Its entirely possible that God goes by the Mormon system. Or maybe he doesnt. Or maybe he is a 'she'. You rely on your spiritual experiences to confirm your beliefs in the chruch. So does everyone else who is into their religion. What makes your experiences so much more valid, important and perfect than theirs?

-L- said...

I recognize that there are people of all sorts and varieties doing their best to find truth and follow it, and who come to many different conclusions. We all base our understanding of what is real on our disparate experiences. But there’s a difference between changing my belief in what is real because I have new evidence, and changing my view of reality as if it’s a piece of art—subject to my own whims, interpretation, and ultimately authored by myself. I don’t want to talk myself out of something I believe because there are uncomfortable parts, sad parts, or contradictory parts, but I want to leave myself open to learning and growing as new information becomes available. It’s a fine line. And apparently, a distinction I’m not very good at explaining.

This post, again, is all about “Mormonism in my situation”, not Mormonism as it really is and if anybody disagrees they’re just plain WRONG. I hope that helps clarify.

Another Other said...

I think the point that is trying to be made here is that Mormonism is one of two things: right or wrong. And that the "evolution of testimony" and the "readjustment of lifestyle" around Mormonism is a fallacy. You do one of three things: 1. Believe it is right and follow it. 2. Believe it is right and select not to follow it, appreciating that there will be utlimate consequences for that. Or 3. Don't beleive. All of these alleged middle grounds of "waiting for the church to come to its senses about homosexuality and just accept gays for who they are" indicate a lack of understanding of your true options. One either believes or he doesn't, and it would be a good thing to own up to whichever option one truly aligns himself with.

And -L- seems to be saying that for him, it's option # 1, and that he doesn't want to fall into the trap of becoming confused about his true feelings toward the church (i.e. thinking it needs to conform to his lifestyle and beliefs and sexual preferences, and that because it hasn't yet, he is somehow justified in feeling comfortable living with option #2). The fact of the matter is, if you truly believe in the church you know that option #2 (as well as any "wait for the church to come to its senses" philosophy) is directly against God's outlined plans and that the consequences of living that way will be dire. And if you truly don't believe in the church, why are you even worrying about it?

Pardon me -L- if I've misinterpreted and feel free to clarify beings as, oh, you know, I'm trying to speak for your thoughs and all, haha.